Grocers: Seize the Day!
For grocers, this pandemic has stressed every detail of their operation. From product shortages, logistics challenges, and employee availability, to the evolving guidelines differing at a local, State, and Federal level. Who will win and who will languish is almost a flip of a coin. Demand has not wavered; consumers are willing and able to evolve to the new shopping landscape.
Grocers who have already begun implementing an eCommerce platform are better positioned to shift quickly to accommodate online orders for pick-up and delivery. Those who did not already have an eCommerce platform are having a much more difficult time scaling and shifting their operation to meet the needs of this new retail environment.
Who will win in the end?
The winners in this scenario will be the grocers listening to their customer’s wants and needs and working to fulfill them.
We are living in a time of significant uncertainty, and it isn’t easy to cope. We crave consistency and predictability; that is why we may favor one grocer over another or one brand over another. COVID-19 has forced a “grocery crisis,” similar to that of the financial crisis felt around the globe in 2008. The winners in that crisis were the financial institutions that embraced their customer’s evolving preferences and made foundational changes in their business model.
Today, we bank, apply for mortgages, make stock investments, and purchase insurance from our mobile devices or computers. We typically only visit the brick-and-mortar location when the transaction requires special attention or physical interaction with the person handling our transaction. Consumers adapted, and now mobile banking is ubiquitous.
In last month’s reflection on e-grocery, I stated that the grocery story in 2020 is one of adaptability and triumph. This hasn’t changed.
What does change look like for grocers in 2020?
The impact of this change has been felt by grocers in several ways, from revenue impact and modified operational workflows, to entirely new consumer engagement models. There is no question that consumer engagement is the most critical part of a grocer’s business.
Evolving your consumer engagement model is where the opportunity lies. Learn from early adopters, learn from those whom you think are “killing it,” find out what went well and what didn’t resonate. We have learned from our experience that a brick-and-mortar store can be a great advantage when it also functions as an eCommerce fulfillment hub.
And consider, of course, all the parts needed in a successful eCommerce strategy: delivery, dark stores, micro fulfillment centers, staffed in-store pickup, automated pickup, and pickup-in-location, to name a few.
The key is to leverage what is most convenient for your customer.
“Winter is coming,” literally
I can’t help but use this saying from the series, “Game of Thrones,” but it’s true! The pandemic and the rapid transformation of eGrocery and curbside pickup models have come when the weather has been favorable. Grocers and other retail verticals have reassigned and hired loads of people per store/location to transport orders from the building to the customer’s waiting car.
Curbside pickup is much easier in the spring and summer months than in the winter months. Not only will the cold have an impact, but the hazards of employees running to and from a customer’s car are risk factors that a grocer can’t easily mitigate. One slip and fall can change everything for a grocer and their pickup model.
For grocery strategies, one size does not fit all
As a 113-year-old company, we have survived and thrived through many challenges. We focus on the critical areas where engagement with a customer can be one of ease or one of disaster. We have spent years deploying these types of solutions and are continually improving both our products and our portfolio.
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that there is no one product that fits all grocers’ challenges. What is great for one store isn’t necessarily great for another. Providing options matters.
Knowing what will resonate with local customers, while fitting each grocers’ unique needs by location, is key to a successful nationwide eCommerce strategy. Our experience shows that pick-up in an automated, contact-free solution is an essential part of the ecosystem. Our solutions not only improve customer pickup but also enhance 3rd party delivery services’ effectiveness and reliability.
Experience matters in a grocery partner
We can help any grocer at any stage of the process. We know it is an evolution. While we don’t pretend to be experts in everything, we certainly have the experts and experience to help. In addition to having the most extensive selection of automated pick-up solutions in the world, we have partnerships with organizations like Microsoft and Rakuten Ready, which can help accelerate your business.
Still, considering making a change? There is no better time than the present to shift your strategy to better serve your customers.